Childhood well-being important to Waco's future


By Tiffany Gallegos-Whitley

I recently returned from maternity leave with childcare on my mind and a newsletter post to write. As I looked at my last post back in the spring before I went on leave, I remembered that particular post was about the intersection of early childhood education and our workforce.

It looks like my writings are becoming a series on childcare, which is fine with me because I find the topic so important. I wish this was a joke, but the second person I told when I found out I was pregnant again was my son’s childcare center director.

Sorry parents and best friends. I was only six weeks pregnant but knew from experience that I needed to get Baby W on the waitlist. That was in November 2021. My daughter started childcare late September of this year.

We were on a waitlist for 10 months, even with priority since our son was already enrolled. I have heard other waitlists around town averaging 12+ months, particularly for infants.

I say all of this as someone with privilege when it comes to childcare. My family has access to high quality childcare, and we still needed to ensure we had plans in place while waiting for a spot. I am grateful we had paid family leave and the ability to work remotely, but I know this is not the norm; particularly when it comes to paid family leave (a topic for another post).

On top of this waitlist pain point many families face, there is also the affordability factor (which I detailed in my previous post). I keep getting fixated on affordability and quality. Why do these seem like a seesaw where one goes up, the other goes down?

There are a myriad of factors. Part of this involves learning about the childcare business model and policies in place that regulate the industry. Understanding this landscape is a facet of my work as I return from leave.

I am also excited to be part of United Way’s Child Well-Being Movement. United Way staff have worked hard to develop a Child Well-Being Community Action Plan, part of which highlights the need for high quality childcare and educational opportunities. Needless to say, I jumped to be part of this particular working group.

There are a number of great leaders with childcare and early childhood education expertise in this group that can help develop feasible solutions for our community. It is great to see so many diverse stakeholders come to the table, and I cannot wait to share the learnings and solutions that come from this work.

Tiffany Gallegos-Whitley is director of workforce initiatives with Prosper Waco.